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Posts tagged ‘Martin Parr’

Leica Store Los Angeles Grand Opening

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I had the honor to attend the grand opening of the new Super-Sized LEICA store located at 8783 Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood last Friday night. It’s the only one of it’s kind in the world, for now.

If you want to make an international destination and push a global brand, you have to think big. Leica made sure they did just that and spared no expense. They opened with a big splash – and apropo to this town, Hollywood style. All the managing directors around the world and key players in their company flew in to help get the new store and the party up and running. Of course, Leica’s very own celebrity entourage was on hand to help bring attention to their new space.

You knew the party was super-sized when you drove up, and 30-40 valets stood in line ready to take your car. Then a throng of greeters tapping iPads to “log you in” descended upon you, not to mention the countless security personnel. But the best part was, Eberhard Kuehne, Leica’s West coast regional manager who invited me (Thanks Ebbi!), was standing to give me a big hug. I couldn’t wish a warmer welcome. How I wanted O to be with me but when you’re married, one has to work and, well…O was in Budapest….So I had to endure the event all by my lonesome…sort of.

L1022300Ebehard Kuehne (center)

There were no name tags, or rubber stamping on the back of the hand here. No- I had to wear the ubiquitous chic black rubber wristband with the Leica dot. Then I had to run down the red carpet and be confronted by a battery of press photographers and papparrazzi. But, as a kind greeter told me, if I’m not comfortable, I could walk behind the cameras. Ahem, is that a subtle hint that I’m not a celebrity? Okay, my street shooting buddy, Rinzi Ruiz, did recognized me at the time. He was working as a second press photographer for Chris Weeks who was shooting for G-Star Raw, the co-host of the event. I turned to the kindly greeter, nodded and walked down the red carpet anyway – you know, to feel the love. I did notice from the corner of my eye, photographers were changing SD cards, chimping through their screens to see if their last shot looked good, comparing notes and cameras, anything but snapping a picture of me. Then I realized, I had survived the red carpet horror. 🙂

The building is great. The new General Manager of the Leica store, James Agnew, told me it was a last minute convergence of all the elements of the universe. Leica had been looking and looking for a place to call home but found nothing that fit their criteria. A leaser of the space dropped out and Leica nabbed it right away – just a few months before they opened. It was meant to be.

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They did a nice job of converting a furniture store into something very special. Thanks to Roland Wolff, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Steffen Keil and Kathy Goldman, it has its own brand identity in the well known design center of West Hollywood near Robertson Boulevard. Taking cues from the images its cameras make, the black part of the facade frame the activities inside like a big picture frame. The modern, clean and sleek store reassures you that design and aesthetics are mantras and a way of life for Leica. Nearly 8,000 sqft/900 sqm of open space. There is a VIP lounge in the back. But frankly, being in an, albeit cushy room without windows, may sound cool and exclusive, but you’ll miss out on everything. If you want the Leica experience, the real view is looking through the store and out to the front of the street. There is an outdoor lounge upstairs that also overlooks the street and entrance, making it a very L.A. kind of place. And it goes without saying, they have an espresso machine. Hanging out has never been made more enjoyable. They even have their own valet parking lot in an area where parking doesn’t come cheap. So there’s no excuse not to check it out .

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One of the first people I met was Dr. Andreas Kaufmann. Like a good host, he was out by the front door greeting guests. You could see he was proud of the realization of one of his long time dream.

L1022310Dr. Andreas Kaufmann

When you walk into the store you immediately come upon Liao Yibai’s giant FAKE LEICA sculpture. It’s a a fun piece of glossy objet d’art and appropriately named. It reminds me of Claes Oldenberg’s classic giant sized replicas of every day objects such as binoculars, rubber stamp, bowling pins. But this one is made of stainless steel and is imbued with lots of detail from the Leica MP #253. I love the story behind Liao’s inspiration for the name. He grew up in a military factory in China. The cameraman in the factory used a ‘fake Leica’ to record the factory’s missile tests – the successful ones. As a child, he was allowed to press the shutter and was fascinated with cameras ever since. He can’t remember which Chinese make of camera it was- could have been the Seagull or Hua Ying, but he remembered the reference to Leica. China also made the Shanghai, another ‘fake Leica’. This is like Russia’s Fed, Zorki. Japan’s Cannon III, Minolta 35, Nicca, Yashica YE, Tanaka IIC. England’s Periflex and America’s Kardon. All Leica copies of their time. But the Chinese don’t mince words. It’s called a fake Leica because even then, the camera was exclusive and legendary and those who couldn’t afford it, bought the look-alikes. As you can see here, the Leica camera in any form, is still sexy and seductive.

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Beyond the sculpture is the main floor split into two by the glass staircase. On the left is a library of books curated by Martin Parr. What a treat. Lots of interesting and unusual photography books. Finally, books that are worth discovering. They also sell accessories and gifts like specially designed Leica T-shirts. On the right side are glass cabinets filled with Leica cameras and Leica optics. It’s like opening one treasure chest after another.

L1022352 Seal standing with hard core Leica fan

The party drew all kinds of people from the movie, fashion, music and photography world. In front of the camera like actors, and singers and rockers.

L1022320Nikki Sixx (Mötley Crüe) with a photographer

Behind the camera like journalists, photographers, cinematographers and supplier/vendors of cameras, movie cameras and equipment. There were gallery owners, collectors and photography enthusiasts.

L1022342Award winning photographers Nick Ut and Mary Ellen Mark (behind is her exhibit)

Photography was at the heart of this opening with the whole upper floor dedicated to the display of images. The opening exhibit featured amazing and prolific images from Mary Ellen Mark, graceful ones by Yariv Milchan, and even Seal’s capture of an intimate moment. You have to see the images up front and personal. They are truly inspirational.

In Hollywood fashion, loud music pounded while beautiful people adorned modern furniture next to the suits.

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I had the chance to feel the 50mm Summicron-C cine lens. Wow, what a hefty piece of glass. It’s the same elements as the regular Summicron but the gears to support flawless and silent follow focus is more demanding than the ones still photography requires. It’s incredibly smooth. Also the housing needs to withstand the weather elements in a more robust way. I can’t wait to be able to spend some time with it and the Summilux-C lenses. I was talking to Leica’s CW Sonderoptic’s Managing Director, Gerhard Baier and he’s extremely proud of the work they accomplished with the entire prime lens series of both the Summilux C and the Summicron C. They had one mounted on an M240 and another on Arri’s Alexa (movie camera) and both were sweet.

L1022312-EditLeica M240 with 50mm 2.0 Summicron-C

I also met several Leica store managers whom I talked about the pros and cons of Leica cameras. What I especially noticed is that they still have very strong opinions about Leica products good and bad which give them the independence I feel help Leica in a positive way. What I mean is, they aren’t just ‘yes’ people. Thank goodness.

Then came the Leica X Vario, which David Farkas (Red Dot Forum), let me play with. Some of you may know, I poo poo-ed the X Vario when it first came out as it wasn’t meeting my expectation of a mini camera with an M- mount. But when I laid my hands on it, my opinion started to change. Contrary to textbook opinion of slow aperture equals difficult to use in low light, the camera surprised me on how it captured details in just such a situation. And in a cinematic way, when the zoom lens follows focus, the bokeh transitions soft and smooth, unlike many zoom lenses where the transition is clunkier. I have yet to render my full judgement until I really review it, but my mind is open for more surprises.

L1022382Leica X Vario with Leica M240 in background

As I mentioned, G-Star Raw co-sponsored the opening. They worked together with Leica to create the Leica D Lux 6- Edition G-Star Raw. It has a cool rough and tumble look about it. I like the muted grey tones mixed with the dark brown leather case. It also has a military feel to it.

gstar leicaLeica D Lux 6 – Edition G-Star Raw

Tom Smith and Justin Stailey of Leica Akademie USA told me the idea behind the opening of this store is to create a ‘center’ for Leica and photography. Of course they will sell, but they want a cultural center. A place where local and international photographers can come together and share their work with others. They want to emphasize the final product of the print. Leica Akademie will play a bigger role in our Leica future. They don’t just want to educate us on how their camera works but on the whole process of photography and resulting ideas. So there will be lectures, workshops, as well plain and simple hangouts for amateurs to learn from professionals. It’s what Leica should be about. A true corporate sponsoring of the arts. I love it. The camera will sell if the images inspire. I only wish they did this sooner.

L1022380David Farkas (Red Dot Forum and Leica Miami) & Chris Moore (Leica marketing)

I also had the chance to meet one of my Twitter followers, Chris Moore. He’s a Leica marketing specialist focusing on social media and all things media from analogue books to anything digital. His first advice to me was to get my photography business card straightened out. I was walking around with my day job business card, writing on the back my Leica Liker info. Was I a doofus or what?

The neat thing about the opening party is the mixture of all kinds of people. It’s like going to the candy store and meeting Willy Wonka and his entire crew and all their customers from different walks of life.

L1022387Street photographers Chris Weeks, Rinzi Ruiz, Frank Jackson

People had fun at the party.

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What’s a grand opening without a ribbon cutting?

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Out came the giant scissors.

L1022354Leica Brass (L to R): Steffen Keil, Alfred Schopf, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Roger Horn

Annie Seaton, the Gallery director told me the next day that nobody wanted to leave the party. They had to kick people out. The ‘stammplatz’ (the usual hangout place) is already happening. 😉

Leica has come a long way in a relatively short period. When you think about it, they were about to go bankrupt in 2006 because they didn’t know how to survive in the digital age. Stubborn people within Leica didn’t want to change back then. They could have gone down the same path as Kodak: A distant memory of the past and no one would have new Leica products to play with today. Now, they’re building factories, opening stores and generally implementing a grander, albeit, glitzier vision of Leica. Some die hard Leica fans think it’s too much about bling and not about the good old fashioned Leica camera. But in today’s social media and brand-centric society, they are simply cultivating the same reputation they had before World War II: exclusive, high quality and expensive. They’re just now using what was once more word of mouth as a direct marketing tool to build their brand on. If they need celebrities to help market their products, then they should get all the help they can. Look- they are not just surviving, they are leading and forging their own future, thank you very much. We’ll always gripe about whether one Leica camera or lens is better or not than another. But I for one am glad Leica is doing what they are doing so we can have something to talk about and most importantly, cameras that inspire our creative selves.

I want to thank Tom Smith for introducing me to everyone.

I wish the new Leica Store LA and Leica Gallery all the best of luck.

Here are all their links.

http://leicagalleryla.com
http://leicastorela.com
https://www.facebook.com/LeicaGalleryLA?fref=ts
https://www.facebook.com/LeicaStoreLA?fref=ts

L1022368-2The L-word

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# 7 CHARALAMPOS KYDONAKIS, Rethymnon Street Photographer

Leica Liker is honored to have Charalampos Kydonakis, a Rethymnon (Crete) Street Photographer as our #7 guest. He’s also known as Dirty Harrry [sic], author of a very informative and purely visual street photography blog – Dirty Blog.

If you’re like me, I began my street photography journey by poring over countless photography books and of course, the ubiquitous internet. One of the first websites I came across was Harrry’s ‘Dirty Blog’. It is a wealth of information. Photos upon photos, conveniently organized into categories and alphabetized. You can see some very inspirational photos by masters, contemporaries and even little known photographers.

What really drew my attention was not Harrry’s encyclopedic endeavors, although I very much appreciate it, but rather his own photographic work. Many of his photos are raw images (raw in the sense of visceral) of people and animals at night,  instilled with a surprised and sometimes nightmarish vision. They occasionally hark of alcoholic induced momentary flashes (literal with flash lighting) of  the figurative paintings of existentialist painter Francis Bacon. And with a little inspiration from master street photographer, Bruce Gilden to boot.

Harrry’s street photography work takes surrealism to another level, in particular his multiple exposure photographs. His use of allegory is whimsical, adding a layer to street photography that is not often seen. My favorite being the feature image here with the dog’s face overlaid over a woman smoking. Some have a twisted sense of humor which often appears even in his less ambitious street photographs. And his subjects are not always shown in the most positive light.

We live in a world where we are bombarded by images of flawless people, photo-shopped to absolute perfection no matter if you live in a developed or underdeveloped country. So it’s refreshing to see artistic images that poke fun or simply point out the banal side of our human selves.

Here is my interview with  CHARALAMPOS KYDONAKIS.

Nick Name: Dirty Harrry
Currently living in: Rethymnon, Crete
Motto: If I get to 80 years old, maybe I ‘ll have one.
Profession/Job: Architect

Street Photographer since: I started shooting street photos in 2008. But I consider myself just a guy with a camera shooting and not strictly a street photographer.
Street Photography Blogger since: March 2011
Websites: http://dirtyharrry.blogspot.com  and http://mydreamsyournightmare.blogspot.com

Favorite Street Camera & Lens: Canon E60D with a Voigtlander Colorskopar 20mm , f3.5
Back-up Street Camera & Lens:  I don’t carry a backup camera. I always carry a second battery and a second memory card. When the batteries run out or the cards fill up then it’s time to put the camera back in the bag and go get some rest.
Favorite photography gadget:  My bicycle and my sport shoes.
Favorite street food: Beer

Do you listen to music while shooting? No
Favorite music when editing Photos: Astor Piazzola, Vicente Amigo and many more.
Favorite photo software: I open the raw archives with Lightroom 3 and the jpegs with Photoshop CS4.

3 Favorite Master Photographers: Weegee, Martin Parr, Garry Winogrand, and  Diane Arbus. Sorry. I couldn’t end up with 3.
3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers:  Martin Parr, Bruce Davidson, Trent Parke
Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? Unfortunately I don’t have prints by others. The only prints I own are about 30 of  mine. Unfortunately, I have not been able to see all my photos printed.

Color or Black and White? In the past, I shot only black and white. Now, I think  about 5-10% of what I shoot end up in black and white. I only turn to it for a few photos, mainly the ones that I shoot at night. It’s difficult for someone to throw away the easy vintage-romanticism of black and white photography and create something with valour in color terms. But I believe this is the challenge. I still like black and white photography and haven’t rejected it. But I think the future belongs to color.

Shoot Film or Digital? If there were someone to develop and print for me for free, maybe I would shoot film. Right now I think spending time and money in developing and printing can make someone a better printer, but not a better photographer. Time is more important to me than exposure tolerance, grain etc..

Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? I like to shoot early in the morning (unfortunately this can happen only on weekends and vacation), or 1-2 hours before sunset. The light in the beginning and the end of the day is beautiful.

But most of the time I prefer to shoot at night. It somehow has different rules from the day. In the day you can be invisible.  At night I use a flash. You can’t be invisible and I don’t’ care.  I just shoot. Most of the time it doesn’t work. But once in a while you get lucky. You just have to shoot a lot. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night. The more you shoot; the more you read; the more you see what other people shoot; the more it helps your photography.

Why did you choose Street Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting?  I bought my first analog camera in 1997 while I was at university. It was required for my studies and work. At that time, I shot only buildings and urban spaces. In 2008 I bought a digital camera and started to shoot more. Then I saw some Magnum photos and realized that I would like my photos to tell human stories.

Street photography is what gives me adrenaline. But lately I have started to shoot anything and everything, not only street.

What motivates you to photograph the streets? I like the surprising wind that blows out there. You never know what to expect. It’s a challenge to walk endless hours trying to discover things around me.

Is Street Photography an obsession? I think photography is an obsession, no matter if it’s street or not.

Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? When I shoot strangers I want to be alone. It’s definitley fun to go out shooting with friends but if I look at the final result, all the times that we didn’t separate while walking I ended up with nothing. I need to concentrate. But I do have a few photos of my family and friends that I like. And finally, I don’t care if the subject is of strangers or friends or whatever. I just care that I end up with something worth viewing.

Favorite street photography city: I ‘ve shot in some European cities and it’s nice to shoot anywhere. But as everyone’s finest work is a result of how much time he has spent somewhere, I must say that my favorite photos I have are shot in my town, Rethymnon in Crete.

What inspires your photography?
-The work of masters of photography and a lot of contemporary photographers
-Movies by Sam Peckinpah, Akira Kurosawa and Luis Bunuel
-Books by Nikos Kazantzakis and Gabriel Garcia Marquez
-Alcohol

What do you look for in a good photograph?  The composition and the possible story that might come out of something unimportant that passed before the photographer’s eyes.

How do you go about shooting a street photograph? I always carry my camera with me. Whenever I see something that catches my attention I go close and shoot one or more photos.

Is there a philosophy or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? Back in 1997 when I was in university, we had a drawing and painting course. Instead of just drawing, my professor wanted us to present black and white photos of what we saw. So I bought my first camera. I learned how to ‘see’ and compose that way.

The main thing is I shoot a lot. I also spend time looking at other people’s photos. Maybe I get some ideas that way. I’m sure it’s in the back of my mind. So when I go out and shoot, I might see something and find a connection between what inspired me and what is in the street. But none of it is conscious.

As for aesthetic – My images may seem surreal but it is my effort to interpret reality. What I mean is, you see something real and then you give metamorphosis to it. If there is no metamorphosis, then you are just documenting life.  Documentation is somehow objective and I want it to be subjective. I want to tell my story. I’m not interested in documenting life.

I also love spontaneity. When I drink alcohol, I always experience spontaneity.

You’ve been shooting more multiple exposure shots. Is that your new aesthetic? I get bored doing the same thing. I wanted to try new things. There was a time I did ‘Gilden-type’ street portraits. This has its limits. I needed to get over it and move on. And street photography has its limits.  We must be as open minded as we can.  In the end, I don’t care about labels- I just care about what I see and if I like it or not.

Are the multiple exposure images planned or random? With multiple exposures, you only see the first frame. The second, third or subsequent layers are done by instinct. I know the focal length and I know my 35mm lens well and the specific angle I will get from a specific distance. That’s it.

When doing multiple exposures it’s more conceptual and less spontaneous. I have to think 2 or 3 frames in advance although the shots are made up of spontaneous un-posed moments. But in the back of my mind I have to try to combine these things.

Why did you start a street photography blog? I began with a Flickr account to post my work. But I wanted to really show my images. At the same time, I was looking at a lot of photos from other photographers. And I would come across photographic diamonds.  I discovered so many good things that I wanted to share them. I also want to see these gems again and again because they are inspirational to me. So I decided to present their work in my blog along with my own images.

You’ll notice my blog is about showing photos and not a lot about my opinion of the work or the photographers. I just want to show photos.  I get bored reading too much. For instance, I don’t care to read about tips.  Photography is about images.  I don’t care if the photographer is famous or not.

Why did you name your blog “Dirty Harrry Blog” (now titled Dirty Blog)? I don’t know. Harry is short for Charalampos. It’s  pronounced ‘Haralampos’. The ‘C’ is silent in Greek. And then there are my dirty photos.

Best 3 tips for shooting the streets:
What I usually do is:
-Try to forget everything and concentrate on what is happening around me.
-I shoot without thinking if it is right or ethical to shoot.
-When I ‘m out in the night, I drink beers.

Best single advice on how to improve your work: Forget anyone’s tips and just open your eyes.


Best single advice on how to edit your work: 

  • If edit is referring to processing: don’t edit too much.
  • If edit is referring to curation of your own stuff: ask 2 fellow photographers whose talent you trust 100% and have them tell you their opinion about your projects.

Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: Shoot whatever can tell a story, no matter if it’s peopled subjects or unpeopled. No matter if it’s pure street or not.

What’s the best moment in your street photography career? I don’t have a career, that’s why I don’t know its best moment. However, I know the 2 most funny moments while shooting:

  •  In 2008 I went to Barcelona and the first day I took a photo of a girl walking. After one week I was shooting around, at some moment I went inside a church to rest a little and I saw her sitting nearby. I remembered her and showed her the photo in the camera and afterwards we went in the neighboring park of Ciudadella to ride a boat. Suddenly she started to sing Spanish songs as she was moving the paddles!
  • Once it was evening in my town and in an empty road there was only me and a couple hand in hand on the other side of the road. I went and took a flash portrait of the girl from a very close distance. Her boyfriend got mad with me and started to push me. I told him to relax and we started to talk. After 5 minutes he told me that he had a lens that he didn’t use and asked me if I was interested in buying it!

What’s the worst moment in your street photography career?  Once I went alone into a decadent bar to shoot photos at 4 o’clock in the morning. Everybody in that bar were like gangsters and criminals. I was excited to come upon such a subject. Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed in taking any photos because the owner of the bar pushed me out when he saw me with a camera in my hands. He threatened my life if he saw me again. The bad thing wasn’t that I was kicked out of that place or that I was threatened. The bad thing was that I didn’t take any pictures there.

What projects are you working on? I’ve been shooting street photography for many years. Now I think I am interested in anything: Landscape, portraits, still life. Every form has its difficulty and its charm. Shooting anything (or almost anything) helps me to observe better.

Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? In the future I will try just not to get bored of what I shoot. Which finally means not to get bored of myself. If my photography will be street or whatever, I don’t really care.

Are there exhibitions planned in the future? I have an exhibition titled ‘CIVITAS RETHYMNAE’ from July 8 to August 30 at two different locations here in Crete, together with my friends Lukas Vasilikos (Leica Liker Interview #2) and Ania Vouloudi . Everyone is welcome 🙂

Leica Liker thanks Harrry for sharing his experience and inspirational advice with us. :-) We look forward to checking in on him in the future.

You can check out Harrry’s gear under “Liker Bags’n Gear here.

This is Harrry’s self portrait.

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